Fifteen Minutes of Hell


I am having a tiny crisis today at school.
There is no blue in my crayon box.

This was important. Vitally so. Ms. Warner wanted us to do an outdoor picture today for art class. You can't do outdoors without blue. You'd have no sky. You'd have no water. I don't know about you, but it isn't outside when you don't have either of those things. I'm from the planet Earth. Where are you from?

Some times, I'll fudge it a little bit. Last week, for instance, when I broke my color green, and I had to draw a picture of the my neighborhood park, I figured out a way out. I used brown for the grass. When Ms. Warner asked why the ground in my park was brown, I said 'cause it's fall, and the grass turned color. She smiled and said that was very 'per-cep-tive' of me. Sometimes, I think it's easy to make Ms. Warner smile and leave you thinking you're doing a good job.

But I couldn't have pulled off what I did last week without my color blue. It held everything up. I colored a great sky. It wasn't flat and boring like everyone else's, like Randy's for instance. His sky looked like a third grader colored it. Well, he is, but that's not really pushing yourself to the limit, I think. His sky had lines running through it, from the places he pressed down too hard. And it had some blank spots too, where the white showed. I told Randy, "Randy, you don't know how to color a sky." He looked at me, then back at his picture of his park, and just shrugged. I think sometimes Randy just doesn't care about art the way he should. Ms. Warner sure could give him a talking too.

But at least Randy tried to draw a sky. If you ask me, some kids in my class don't even make an effort. Big Billy Wilkins. He doesn't bring any crayons to class. Spends art time drawing circles on his drawing paper with a pencil, then erasing them, and starting all over. He knocks over this girl's crayon box, and makes them spill all over the floor. He's loud and laughs even at his own jokes. His just a big bully, even when his not in art class.

And I think he's the one who took my color blue.

He's just the kind of guy to do it. Billy has had it in for me since first period. We were walking into class, single file, following Ms. Warner, when I saw Billy step out of line and turn around to walk out the door. Probably to just mess around or go walking around the hallway. Frankly, I don't like it when he messes with Ms. Warner's time like that. I mean, she has a schedule and everything. Kids should respect that about a teacher. Just like using the crayon blue for the sky. It's how it is, and we shouldn't mess with it.

For example, Martha the Noisy, Obnoxious Brat sitting behind me ask me why I wasn't coloring anything. I said I didn't have my color blue. She said why do I need my color blue, I had 19 other colors to choose from. I said I had to color the sky and water. She said why don't you pretend it's snowing, and the sky is all white, and the water is all ice. I said I can't do that. I've never seen snow or ice before, at least not outdoors, and I need to be true to my artistic capabilities. She said she didn't know what that means. I said, shut up, Miss Martha the Noisy, Obnoxious Brat. She stuck her tongue out at me and started coloring her drawing again. She was using purple for her sky. She's just plain weird. She might go to a special class after third grade. That's what Randy says. I should ask how he knew that, but then again, it makes a lot of sense, especially if she colors her sky purple, so I don't say anything back to her. Poor Martha.

So, Billy was going the wrong way while everyone was walking into class, and I said, "Ms. Warner, our line is crooked." Naturally, she had to turn around and see just how crooked our line was, and she saw Billy Wilkins walking out the door. She called out his name, and everyone in class turned and looked and had a big laugh at his expense. He had to walk up to her desk and explain himself. When he walked past me, he turned and gave me a dirty look. His eyes were all squinty and his mouth was a tiny frown. He looked even funnier, but I didn't want to laugh. Not when he was that close to me. Big Billy Wilkins is twice my size. Really. I stare into his stomach all the time. Not all the time, but when I'm close enough to see his stomach, that's all I see. So I turn and fall back in line.

I knew from then on that he had it in for me.

I look over to his desk, which was by the end of our row. I had my eyes all squinty and my lips were into a really tight frown. If he saw my face, BIlly would see just how mad I was for losing my blue crayon. I couldn't see him, which is really hard to do because he's so big, but he was leaning back on his chair probably, talking to the guys in the row behind him. I could see his desk, and his blank piece of drawing paper. Figures. Didn't even start yet. He's gonna grow up into one of those teenagers and be in high school and gets into all that trouble. I know about those guys. I watch Nickelodeon.

But that was all I could see on his desk. No crayons. Only a blank piece of paper. So he stole my blue crayon, and doesn't even use it. What kind of madman was he? I'm trying to figure that out, when Wendy leans in front of her desk, and looks at me staring right at her. Her eyes get really big, and she leans away again. I guess I still had my mad face on.

That Billy Wilkins. Now he's getting me really angry. I'm going to have to settle this once and for all.

I take really deep breathes, and get my whole body tense. I'm concentrating really hard, and try to get my muscles to shake. I'm almost biting my lips, and cheeks disappear in the rage that is me. Randy turns around and almost shouts, "Are you okay, Frankie?" He sounds really scared, and moves further back in his chair.

I let my breathe go. His interruption ruined my concentration. "I'm fine Randy. Thanks a lot. I'm trying to get myself pumped up. Just be quiet." I take another deep breathe, and start all over.

"Why?" I let that breathe go. That Randy. If I could just stuff my pencil case into his mouth for just five minutes....

"Because I'm going to get my blue crayon back from Billy Wilkins, that's why." Randy's eyes grew wider. I see the admiration growing in his face.

"Billy Wilkins? He's going to sit on you, Frankie." He finds this amusing.

"He's not going to sit on me! I'm going to get my crayon back, and he better hand it over to me, or else...."

"Or else....."

Or else. I see the future in my eyes. The ones in my head.

I pull out of my chair. I stand straight up, as tall as I could be. Even though I stare into his stomach when he stands up, at least when he's sitting, Billy has to look into my eyes when I go up to him. I walk over slowly, taking a stride at a time. Wendy turns around and sees it's me, and she quickly leans forward and starts coloring again. I get angrier at Billy. That's it. I'm going to put him in his place.

I finally get up to the end of the row, to Billy's desk. To Billy's chair. To Big Billy Wilkin's himself. He talking to the guys sitting in the row behind him. They're laughing, loud and noisy. Interrupting and disturbing everyone else. Ms. Warner is on the other side of class. She won't be able to save Billy from me.

They stop laughing and being loud. Billy looks at me. Even when he's laughing and not being a bully, his face still looks angry and mean. I take an involuntary gulp. But I keep walking.

I stop right next to his chair. My face is angry, and my eyes are sharp as a pencil from a pencil sharpener.

"What to you want, squirt?"

"Yeah, Frankie Squirt." I think that was Tommy Thompson, one of those guys that loves to hang around Billy and laugh at his jokes. He still beats him up, but most of the time they're just loud and really annoying.

"I want my crayon back, Billy." I try to not sound scared. Even as I'm staring into his eyes, I can feel his legs wanting to stand up and make me stare at his stomach.

"I don't know what you're talking about squirt."

"I know you took my crayon Billy. I want it back."

"So what if I did? I want to keep it." He leans over his round pudgy, mean face. "What are you going to do about it? Frankie squirt."

I prepare for this. I know what I'm going to say. But it still amazes me when I say it. "I'm going to take it back." And I push Big Billy Wilkins, push his from his chair to the ground. Show him what I'm made of.

Except that after I push Billy Wilkins, he doesn't move. Not an inch. I kind of almost fall to the ground, but my arms hold me up. It was like trying to push Dad's car around. It was like trying to push Dad.

I see Billy's angry face. It looks a lot meaner than his normal one. Pushes out of his chair, and stands up. His face, so round and still large, even at that great distance, is over me. His whole self is right over me. I think this is like that story I heard, or saw, or Mom read to me, I can't remember, about that guy, David, and that other guy Goliath. I don't remember who won, but I do know that one guy was bigger than the other. I'm guessing David lost. It only makes sense.

Billy Wilkins is standing over me, angry and getting angrier. My life is at his mercy. He speaks. "You were trying to knock me off my chair, squirt?" His voice is booming. Like the way Simba's dad does in the Lion King. "I was sitting down and you wanted to make me fall over. Why don't I just find a nice seat on the floor then?" And Billy Wilkins, twice my size, at least, begins to sit on me. All I see now is the back of his pants. I look up and see the gray pleats from his pants. The color of my sky now is gray.

And the sky is falling.

"Hey, Frankie, you all right?" It was Randy's voice. I shake my head for a little bit. I was gone for about a minute.

"Yeah, I'm fine." My heart was beating faster than the time I saw this scary movie with my dad, or that time my aunt's big dog chased me around in her backyard. But I was fine.

"You're really going to pick a fight with Billy Wilkins?"

"I have to."


"Because he took my blue crayon. And that's not right."

"But he's twice your size. He could kill you if he sits on you." Randy's eyes grower larger. I think he is imagining what I just imagined. And a second later he shakes his head. His sky probably changed color too.

"I don't care. I have to draw my outdoors picture. And I have to have my blue crayon. Even if he sits on me, I'm going to get my crayon back."

"Oh. Good luck then Frankie....Oh here, by the way." Randy ducks down into his desk. He shuffles around, and then he pulls his head out. His hand is holding a blue crayon. My blue crayon, missing from my box. My eyes are shocked. My best friend (well not really, but an okay guy). He's been letting me agonize and fret for the past fifteen minutes. Made me snap at Martha (which I would do anyways, but...) and made me look dumb in front of Wendy. Made me nearly kill myself by going up to Billy Wilkins. Nearly risking my life to fight him. Nearly? I could have, would have died. Randy, who couldn't color a sky if it hit him on the head when he goes outside. Randy, my supposed friend; Randy who sits next to me day after day.

Et tu, Randy?

My face is in shock, looking at Randy. He glances over and sees this new face. Then he turns back to his drawing, saying, "Don't you remember? I asked you yesterday when we were packing up to go home. I didn't have a blue crayon, and you said I could take it from your box for art class. I took it when you went to the bathroom."

That's right. I did say that. I looked at Randy, then at his mangled sky. I steal a quick glance at the end of the row, at Billy Wilkins, whose still making jokes with Tommy Thompson. Wendy was coloring something red on her paper. I look down at my blank piece of drawing paper. All that time lost. I turn and hit Randy on the arm.

"What was that for?" Randy asked, rubbing his arm.

"..... You didn't.... tell me when I got back from the bathroom...." Randy looked at me for a bit, then sort of believed me, and resumed his drawing.

I stared at my paper. And I take my blue crayon. I think I'm going to color a clear sky today.


By Don Bernal
The story of a lifetime in third grade.


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